As with many other sites and palaces in India, the Moti Dungri has a name that may be transliterated several ways, from Moti Doongari to Moti Dungari. The basic pronunciation, of course, stays much the same across all the versions. The meaning is the same as well: the name stands for “pearl hill”, which is said to describe the spot on which it stands. That said, the Moti Dungri itself may certainly qualify as a pearl beyond price in itself. This magnificent structure is actually a rather singular one in the area, not least because of its architectural references.
Unlike many of the other mahals (mahal stands for palace in the local language) in the area, there is an interesting solidity of shape in the Moti Dungri that seems to echo a slightly blockier cut familiar to those from Western countries, specifically around the United Kingdom. This is because the fort encasing the palace has been modelled after another fort predating it: this fort used for reference is actually a Scottish one.
The place was commissioned by the Maharajah Sawai Man Singh II, one of the Kachwaha Rajputs of Jaipur. This maharajah ruled Jaipur from 1922 to the very end of the 1940’s, and he was known for having spent a great deal of time in Europe, researching technological developments that could ensure the military strength of Jaipur’s army, which had always had a sort of ascendancy over those of nearby rulers in terms of technology, especially in the artillery. It is surmised by some that the maharajah’s constant trips to Europe were partly responsible for the pronounced Western styling of the fort.
When Moti Dungri was completed, the third of the maharajah’s consorts, the Maharani Gayatri Devi, was given a tour through the structure by the maharajah himself. She apparently pronounced it so much to her liking that he ended up presenting it to her as a gift. Later on, other members of the royal family lived here, and it was also one of the places searched by the Indian government under PM Indira Gandhi in her inspection of palaces and forts for hidden wealth.
The fort is not actually open to the public, especially as it was the Maharani Gayatri Devi’s residence for a long time (she passed away in 2009). Nonetheless, it is a stunning structure that should definitely be viewed, not least because it also happens to tower just over one of the most famous temples in the city: the Lakshmi Narayan Temple, also known as Jaipur’s Birla Mandir. This gorgeous structure, one of the many Birla Mandirs or Birla Temples spread throughout the country, is fashioned out of wonderful white marble, so pure that it reflects light at night like a beacon. The temple also holds a well-known figure of Ganesh. Since most sight-seeing trips to Jaipur shall include a visit to the temple, the Moti Dungri is typically pointed out by tour guides to travellers too, an intimidating stronghold towering imperiously over the surrounding area.